The First Africa Drylands Week was held back-to-back with the global observance event on 17 June to mark World Day to Combat Desertification. Over 100 scientists, and representatives of government, international and civil society organizations from around the world converged in Dakar, Senegal, from 10-17 June 2011, to develop an integrated approach to address the Region’s abiding challenges of desertification and biodiversity loss, and the new climate change threat.
The speakers at the events included Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Earth Institute of Columbia University, Luc Gnacadja, UNCCD Executive Secretary, Webbe Jaime and Sakhile Koketso from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Amadou Ouattara of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Josiaz Blok of the EU commission, Adamou Bouhari, of UNEP, Anne Juepner of UNEP/UNDP-DDC, Dennis Garrity, ICRAF Director-General, Godwin Kowero, Executive Secretary of the African Forest Forum, Amadou Iba Niang of MDG, West and Central Africa, Youssef Brahimi of the Global Mechanism of UNCCD, Edwige Botoni of CILSS, Anne Lange of the Government of Wallonia-Brussels, Racine Kane of IUCN, Chris Reij of African Regreening, representatives, Youssef Brahimi of Global Mechanism of UNCCD, representatives of CIRAD, IRD and the World Bank representatives and other dignitaries. Djibo Leity Ka, Senegal’s Minister of State, Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection, presided over the World Day to Combat Desertification.
The UN secretary general and several heads of UN agencies and international organizations sent messages in observance of the events. They are Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, Jacques Diouf, Director General, FAO, Monique Barbut, Chief Executive, Global Environment Facility, Kanayo Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Ahmed Djoglaf, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christian Mersmann, Managing Director, Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, and Ambassador Kwon Byong Hyon, the SLM Champion of the UNCCD.
“Land degradation often begins with deforestation, but leads to many other ills that we then try to address independent of each other. The spirit and mindset of the First Africa Drylands Week shows a paradigm shift that is emblematic of what the international community, as a whole, must do to surmount the grave environmental challenges facing us. Shedding our individual environmental blinders, will lead us to a holistic view of our environment, and a better identification of the sources, not symptoms, of such global environmental diseases,” says Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The First Africa Drylands Week and this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification are also part of 2011 International Year of Forests celebrating forests for people. The arid zone forests support the livelihoods of a large proportion of its two billion people inhabitants of the drylands. Overall deforestation has declined globally, but persists in Africa and South America, according to the FAO’s 2010 Global Forests Resource Assessment. The pressure on arid zone forests and the rangelands that protect them may increase, especially in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, from two opposing forces. There is a global campaign to conserve the moist tropical forests for carbon sequestration, on the one hand, and the need to open up new land for agriculture to meet a growing global demand for biofuels, food and poverty eradication on the other.
Increasingly, this pressure is being eased by reverting to the drylands.
Field visits, high-level panel discussions and working group sessions provides the platform for dialoguing and sharing knowledge around these issues, and the implementation of the biodiversity, climate change and desertification conventions. A way forward and a joint plan to enhancing collaboration among different organizations and partners were defined and next steps to upscale good practices were discussed. An information kit on the drylands was launched during the Week in addition to other activities.
The First Africa Drylands Week and World Day to Combat Desertification are organized by the Government of Senegal, in collaboration with the African Union Commission, the National Great Green Wall Agency of Senegal, the Earth Institute of Columbia University/MDG WCA, African Forest Forum, FAO, the UNCCD secretariat, the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, the World Agroforestry Organization (ICRAF), the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS) and Wallonie-Bruxelles International (WBI), and co-funded by the European Commission.
From 10-12 June, two media tours were organized for members wishing to participate. The first itinerary took the participants to the regions of Kébemer, Louga and Linguere to visit various projects, including the dune fixation project and its management for tourism which is being implemented by the forest service, in partnership with NGOs and private sector organizations and the Acacia Operation Project which implemented by FAO with partners in Senegal (Forest Service, women local groups, the private sector, local communities). The itinerary also includes visits to various Acacia project sites, following the gum market chain from the forest to end product. The visits also take us to the project sites of the Millennium Villages Projects as well as to some Great Green Wall initiative sites where interventions were implemented by the Agence Nationale de la Grande Muraille Verte in Senegalin collaboration with local actors.
The second itinerary was organized in the region of Kaolak where visits included sites showcasing desertification issues and the best practices piloted in the region for combating desertification. One of the sites for example is the site of Keur Bam, showcasing how degraded land can be restored through sustainable forest management, keeping desertification pressure away in order to aid the process of natural regeneration. Another site is the forest of Koutal which was totally restored thanks to the commitment and hard work of a local women’s group.
Official Photo of the Week
Interview of M. Djibo Leyti Ka, Senegal’s Minister of State, Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection :
Interview with Dennis Garrity Director General World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)